Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Swing Set Multiplication

We were at the playground after school.  A beautiful blue sky, warm breeze.  Sun felt great on my skin after such a long winter.  Katie was swinging and I was just hanging out, looking up at the sky.

"Hey, Mommy!  Two times three is six!" Katie announced as she hopped off the swing.

"Are you guys learning multiplication already?!" I asked.  I've been shocked at the rate they teach these first graders at Katie's public school.

"No," Katie replied.

"So who taught you that two times three is six?" I asked.

"No one.  I figured it out," Katie said, smiling.

"What?  What do you mean you figured it out?" I didn't believe her.  Someone must have been talking to her about multiplication, or she must have heard someone say "two times three is six" in some movie and she just memorized it or something.

But she was serious.  She pointed to the swings.  "See how there are three sets of two swings?  There's one set of two here, one set of two here, and one set of two here," she explained, pointing.

"Yes," I said, following along but not knowing where we were going.

"Well, if there are three sets of two, and there are six swings, then two times three is six," Katie reasoned.

"Oh my gosh, Katie, that's awesome.  We'll have to tell Daddy when we get home."

At the dinner table, Katie and I told Will what happened on the playground.  Will smiled wide, like he wasn't surprised at all.  Without saying another word, he started grilling her, "If two times three is six, what's two time four?"

Katie's eyeballs rolled upward like she was looking at her brain for an answer.  "Uh, two times four is eight."

"Right!" Will beamed.  "So what's two time five?"

"Um, two times five is, um, ten!" Katie shouted.

"Yes!  Ten!  You've got it, kid!" Will laughed.

We talked about getting her some workbooks to use this summer when school is out so she can explore her interest in math.  Then it occurred to me that if she can figure out multiplication from a swing set maybe the answer lies not inside a workbook but in getting this kid outside to play as often as possible.